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Thursday, 18 April 2013

On Spreads

 From Lisa Simpson's famous tarot reading
Chiriku at the Aecletic Tarot forum  recently made some interesting comments about the use of spreads vs positionless readings (which Chiriku calls 'throws').

Chiriku's opinion is that a spread is best for beginners in all cases, as well as being best for highly skilled and experienced readers who are reading for themselves. He gives as example the many beginners who post their positionless self-readings in the 'Your Readings' sub-forum at AT -- people who have asked a question, put out 3, 5 or even more cards and tried to free-form an interpretation from them. The fact that they are so very confused and seeking help in interpreting demonstrates that the positionless spread is ineffective for beginners. I agree, beginners really should stick to spreads. Beginners and even more experienced readers are highly susceptible to their own biases with free-form self-readings. This type of reading involves weaving cards into a narrative interpretation, and because we are so intimately aware of the complete back story to our own situation, and most importantly have a personal point of view about it,  a positionless throw becomes rife with potential for self-deception. The spread, on the other hand, provides a protective barrier against unintentional bias by giving a context in which to interpret each card, rather than weaving a series of cards together in what could well become an entirely inaccurate direction.

I often use positionless throws when reading for others, and occasionally when reading for myself. Based on my experience, it does seem to be the case that a positionless throw is easier to do for strangers. My lack of both background knowledge and personal emotional involvement in a situation lends the sort of objectivity and distance needed for accuracy. If a reader is too close to the subject or situation, it's very tempting to go off on personal tangents, to read things into the cards that fall into the groove of our own thinking, rather than letting the cards speak in a way that can shake us up or show us a new angle on a situation -- which is the reason we use tarot in the first place!

My favourite spreads are variations on the 3-card spread. I find it the most versatile of draws and the information you can pull out of a 3-card spread is sufficient for just about any question you can think of! Next favourites:

The Magic Cauldron - a 4-card draw which is best for examining the causes and a possible solution for a specific problem

Bewitched! - a 5-card draw laid out in the shape of a pentagram, great for when you want to know how you're deluding yourself and how to break through obstacles in a particular situation

Churchyard - a 13-card spread in which you take the Fool out before you shuffle the rest, then draw 12. Add the Fool back into those 12 cards, set the remainder of the deck aside. Shuffle the 13 card stack and then lay them out in a long row. Wherever the Fool falls is where you are in the situation you've asked about. Cards that fall before the Fool are things you are not conscious of. Those that fall after are things that you are aware of. This spread really helps you see what you don't know, or haven't allowed yourself to see. Also gives an idea of whether a particular cycle is nearly finished or just getting started, etc.

Pathways - a 10-card spread which is ideal for choosing between two courses of action

Original Spreads - These are the spreads you make up based on the query, usually by breaking the question down into its component parts. Custom spreads.

And then the spreads I personally find least effective:

Celtic Cross - the ubiquitous 10-card spread found in every tarot book and box. I don't find it very useful at all; in fact, it is quite clunky!

Horseshoe - another very common spread, another clunker in my opinion.

Themed or gimmick spreads - I sometimes play around and make up spreads like this, but for the most part, I don't like them and find them ineffective. Too forced.

What do you think of spreads? Do you have a favourite?


  1. Hi Carla!
    OOOH--I love the idea of the Churchyard Spread. I think I'll do a search and read a bit more about it. Enjoyed seeing your favorites!


    1. I've only used it a few times, but it is a fun one. :)

  2. I'm also a huge fan of three card spreads! Though I have to say I've been enjoying playing around with Tarot and Lenormand variations ;) I found it really interesting reading what Chiriku said about spreads helping to keep us focused and stop self-delusion when reading on emotive subjects. I've always liked spreads because they seem to offer greater clarity, while still having that surprise factor you mention :)

    1. I know you use spreads more than I do for reasons we've discussed. :) I'm thinking of buying that new spread deck -- Dynamic Spreads, I think it's called. I guess you probably already have it! :)

    2. Nope, I still haven't even gotten around to actually using Tierney's Deck of a Thousand Spreads, so it seemed daft to get another spreads deck :D

  3. I agree on Celtic Cross and Horseshoe! Clunky indeed! I started customising the spreads I found in books years ago and I'm now really comfortable with a few of my own which I like to tweak for different readings or concerns. I also like free hand ones which just lead you down different and, at times, quite unexpected avenues.

    Thanks for your comment on my most recent post. It's nice to have people agree with me on those kinds of points. With your question about my blog images - a lot of them I've saved over a period of around two years when I'd just upload anything I liked onto Photobucket. But when I need to source a picture I usually go to a photo file sharing site like Visualise :)

    1. I notice your technique of offering many very specific spreads. That has two benefits: 1) it helps potential customers choose a topic when otherwise they might have just asked for a 'general', and 2) it saves you having to create a new spread for every reading request. Good thinking. ;)

  4. I think a whole Tarot Deck with Simpsons Characters would be really cool!

  5. Excellent topic, Carla. And definitely much to chew on. I haven't done any face-to-face professional readings, but in the informal ones I've done, I have noticed that it's much easier to not use a specific spread. I do identify positions when I do my email readings, though.

    My fav spread these days is a 9X9 I borrowed from Lenormand and use as a monthly forecast.

    1. I like to use a combination...at my last public appearance, I did a new moon spread for a lady (3 card draw) but we weren't satisfied with that, so I scooped the 3 cards up and put them in the 'what's in the pot' position of the magic cauldron and got a very illuminating answer using that spread. :)

  6. Hello one and all, I am a new to this site and would like to "chip in."

    I have read comments on various spread likes and dislikes and personally found that it really does not matter as to layout.
    It is the way that card connections take place and the story that unfolds from these connections.
    To use the Celtic Cross which does not seem in favour as an eg.
    The central theme, with covering card is relative not only to past influence, after all, it is what brought about the present circumstance of the central issue, but all the adjoining cards in their relevant positional meanings are all connected to one another for the depicted outcome

    The principal of this can be likened to house meanings being emphasised by planets, each house separate but linked giving the finished product, or the potential to finish.

    Just my take on this Regards-John.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, John. I had a look at your website -- your offer of the massive reading including 103 cards is pretty amazing! You must wiped out after all that. :)